Saturday, February 24, 2018

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2017 Revisited: 25 Movies of the Year, Part 1

The year 2017 was problematic in so many ways, but there's no denying that 2017 was also a phenomenal year for cinephiles everywhere. Paul Thomas Anderson came back, Steven Soderbergh revoked his plan to retire à la Hayao Miyazaki, a marvelous time for female filmmakers (Greta Gerwig, Dee Rees, Patty Jenkins, to Sofia Coppola), a powerful period for independent movies (which, for the most part, we have A24 to thank for), a promising mark for talented young actors (Timothée Chalamet, Saoirse Ronan, to Brooklynn Prince), and a pinnacle year for Indonesian film industry. In retrospect, I've decided to revisit 2017 once again and to see 25 movies that have caught my complete attention throughout the year—well, 20 is too tough to pick and 30 is too much work, hence a list of 25. Still, since overlooked movies are unavoidable, here are some of greatest movies of 2017 that sadly didn't make the cut.

In random order: Pengabdi Setan graces Indonesian horror framework and elevates its material with atmospheric, highly effective dread; Baby Driver proves you can achieve smartly written story along with carefully constructed action sequences in one stylish picture; War for the Planet of the Apes concludes its thought-provoking arc with a heart-stirring, rightfully merited finale for the blockbuster trilogy; The Big Sick elucidates romantic narrative when love looks past cultural contrast and strips down all differences; Logan Lucky welcomes Soderbergh in Coen Brothers' touch of slick heist movie with a lot of humor punches as well as exciting idiosyncracy; the scary good, greatly scary It frightens with on-your-face terrors and shape-shifting fear; Molly's Game unites Aaron Sorkin together with Jessica Chastain in a winning race against ticking time that spits its beat relentlessly; and Wonder Woman embodies its two-word title, 'wonder' and 'woman', with heavily built valor and humane sense of optimism. Now, without further ado, let's jump right into my top picks—the first half.

#25. Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts | Directed by Mouly Surya | Written by Rama Adi, Garin Nugroho, and Mouly Surya 
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts aims western territory at a newfangled direction, incarnating lionhearted female liberation without losing grip on its unadorned western narrative. Scattered in a four-act structure that's prototypical and quintessential to its genre, director Mouly Surya registers self-determination and maturity in a gut-wrenching discovery where its dulcet true-being equally matched by its plain-spoken fortitude. All the same, the embodiment is truly well-translated by the mighty impetus of its heroines, particularly the eponymous character herself, possessing a commanding quality while striking a balance between inscrutable, nonchalant control and fierce demeanor. Catapulted by Marsha Timothy's unstoppable body of work, Surya yields mostly clear-cut diegesis with multi-layered emotions as vehicle for unfurling the film's female-centric heart, casting naturalistic vengeance along with underlying symbolic voyage within its spectacular visual palette. An indelible inquiry into gender roles, rape culture, and social oppression, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts bears a formidable apotheosis with sass of confidence and a full streak of vigor, retaining one of today's most important discussions on the map with a cutthroat scenery of cinema.

#24. A Ghost Story | Written and Directed by David Lowery
A Ghost Story places brimful reliance on David Lowery, whose power inflames the unabridged film's ambition. Lowery's approach to his story is fairly unprecedented, in a figure of poetry that endures through orbit of time and yearning. It's a grueling effort to bring a story to life when the titular character barely does anything at all, but Lowery's aim stands in force with a visually telling, dismally prepossessing, and elliptically musing craftsmanship. Having a literal ghost in the eye of the storm, A Ghost Story takes the idea of helplessness into an emotional upheaval in a nowhere-near-unchallenging utterance. It's a melancholy-drenched and hope-filled cruise that appears abstruse in tranquility, but the gravity falls onto a delicately clear-cut niche: a hindsight that only walks forward, not merely a bold retrospect, but rather a deep-rooted introspect. A fully-bodied observation of loneliness and reminiscence accomplished in solicitious inclination and solitary colors, A Ghost Story is a groundbreaking arthouse answer to elegiac exploration of long-standing relics of love and loss. 

#23. The Post | Directed by Steven Spielberg | Written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
The Post works both as an uncomprimising exposé and a pulse-throbbing suspense, finding Steven Spielberg in his ultimate form, once again. Carrying a much simpler premise than its peers—yes, I'm talking about All President's Men and Spotlight—The Post might not be the primal choice for those looking for an in-depth history-based account which intricately sweeps every side of corridor, but it captures the essence of heroism in the right place. Within the period when the press served the governed, not the governors, The Post evinces a fight-or-flight instinct in highest contentment, running against the expected and all the odds. It's anchored by the headlining performance from Meryl Streep, in which she ascends an arc that's unbelievably soaring. As one of the vital forces fortifying the resistance, her articulate rendering utters bravery in a timid presence, arising from underestimated position where the highest stakes are at. The Post ties Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, and Tom Hanks together from a different point of view, shaping an empowered coup that offers a toweringly satisfying chronicle, a riveting journey with oozes coming from every edge. But at heart, The Post cherishes the true spirit of journalism that once was a defining march, jogging our memory about the strongest-willed courage that resides within.

22. Posesif | Directed by Edwin | Written by Gina S. Noer
Posesif is a cinematic offering that examines the antithesis of romance within humane sphere, challenging taboos with guts and grit. Bringing high-school drama as a vessel, Posesif penetrates its rarely-discussed subject matter into conversation with trenchant precision. It's a scrutiny of possession as well as abusive relationship that looks at humans and their all around dimensions, analyzing reactions without stepping into the unduly imprudent romaticism area. Posesif opens with an outwardly steady-paced, blossoming love story, but from there, it goes nowhere but accelerates gradually through a coaster of heart-punching turning points. It is thoroughly heightened by the screen presence of its two leads, Putri Marino and Adipati Dolken, forming a bond both authentic and toxic. Marino's turn gives an astonishing depth from her emotional endurance in the most audacious backbone, whereas Dolken builds a portrait so unwaveringly spine-chilling, unfolding every page of his sheer facets without justifying any demeanor. Often devastating, inescapably daring, and shockingly thrilling, Posesif proves that there's still a room to explore for high-school drama while shedding light on its unspoken weight of detrimental possession altogether, reminding us that the only solution to escape pernicious relationship, is in fact, by escaping.

#21. Logan | Directed by James Mangold | Written by Scott Frank, James Mangold, and Michael Green
There's a certain paradigm of a proper superhero film, and that mainly involves doing anything in big scale and all spectacle. Logan reaches what others won't do: a stripped-down self-effacing farewell story, and a heart-rending one at that. As a story about ageing, dying beloved superhero, Logan sets a big theme between immortality and mortality, a forceful picture of legacy that finds strange warmth along with cold tenderness amidst pathos and tragedy. Enhanced by the appearance of not one, but two claw-handed bad-asses, the action sequences shatter convention with non-fabricated rawness, adding attitude of pragmatism that never loses sight on its keen-edged strength. Pruning visual extravagance in exchange for bringing its candid realm into clearer focus, Logan contemplates what has always been separating these comic-book characters and normal people, and observes the inner mechanism of self-discovery in somber maturity. Elevated by possibly Hugh Jackman's most powerful work to date, Dafne Keen's searingly breakneck debut, and not to mention Patrick Stewart's gut-wrenching little performance, Logan is one last combat that takes cachet through hard-nosed road with grounded subtlety, a rightfully-earned parting that's both aching and satisfying.

#20. Detroit | Directed by Kathryn Bigelow | Written by Mark Boal
One thing that Kathryn Bigelow excels at, is her masterful fluency in patience. This is what she's been doing in her cinematic style for years, and Detroit is no exception. Bigelow spends almost 50 minutes to establish everything from scratch, creating eagerly suspense through self-restraint early intensity before suffocating itself into the middle of the havoc. Moving in conical canon with fond use of shaky handheld camera and desolating sound, Bigelow produces realism sense of cinematic journalism between its fact and fiction. It's a lengthy, sometimes off-kilter, claustrophobic means to channel racial issue that's long-forgotten and as importantly demanding as any other tragic chapter in the book of American darkest history. It faces the real-life horror with rawness besides efficiency, keeping the discourse alive with soul-crushing honesty and brutal absence of catharsis. Yes, Detroit is meant to fire your inside anger, and it does just that without struggle: you'll be provoked, your blood will reach its boiling point, your heart will pound harder than ever. It's a horror realism of one of the most upsetting history in powerful sense, devastatingly proving an alarming point in institutional racism and opression.

#19. Mudbound | Directed by Dee Rees | Written by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees
Mudbound envelops one subplot after another, bursting at the seems with stories carrying gravity on their shoulders. Capturing the relationship between two families—one black and one white—these distinguishing streams meets the tide at a precise pinpoint, a scutiny of racism and destitution that manifests itself into an all-encompassing outlook. Sure, racism is not something new to explore in films, but Mudbound, despite its seemingly typecasted period setting, does this with a contrary to what's orthodoxically done. Patience is needed here, for Mudbound doesn't propel its hook firsthand. With seamlessly leaping narratives, Dee Rees leads us through numerous stories, filled with first-rate acting, spread with little details and lyrical overtone, slowly intensifying. A high-risk move indeed, but the outcome is poignantly rewarding. In the hand of Dee Rees, Mudbound is a grounded ensemble work. Her ability to keep the flow focused as it moves in non-linear trajectory, all while mounting its engaging friction from all directions into a well-rounded slow burn, is an outstanding achievement in storytelling. Using its attentively constructed  depiction of two different families—divided by color and bound by povertyMudbound untangles a shattering, impactful response towards racism and its deeply damaging rooted system.

 #18. Coco | Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina | Written by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich
In a search of loved ones, Coco takes a giant leap by plunging deep into a journey about unearthing own self, expanding our perspective on the meaning of love, family, and compassion. The story combines insightful substance, emotive storytelling, and cultural appreciation in the best kind of way: a visual-driven and music-enriched foray that still brings entertainment value to its topmost level. Like any Pixar films, the narrative fluorishes through stages of simple frictions mounting bigger problems, but the resolution is never easy and the process to find it is always intricate yet organic, keeping us on the edge of our seats and investing us in its genuine overtones. Familiar momentsprimarily in the big reveal—are surely inevitable, but Coco manages to look past anticipation with firmly-assembled thematic storyline, eluding a cliché-ridden story even when you can see some of its twists coming. What's more surprising however, Coco, with an all-embracing plot, triumphantly overcomes this without diminishing any rewarding emotion—trust me, you'll still weep anyway. Definitely another win for Pixar, Coco creates a sublime borderline where the living crosses  paths with the dead and the colors meet the tunes, offering a poignant, deeply affecting story with love and its bonds as its core.

#17. Paddington 2 | Directed by Paul King | Written by Paul King and Simon Farnaby
In a year crowded with solemn movies about more solemn world problems, we deserved a little fun getaway, and Paddington 2 came just at the right time, right momentwith a subtle tackle on its hefty theme. Paddington 2 acts as an epitome of the picture-perfect family adventure: it has charm, wit, grit, and it has more. A journey about a refugee—except this time, it's a bear—Paddington 2 explores everything that makes us love its predecessor, expanding its horizon every step of the way with whimsical joy, authentic laughs, also wholehearted emotions in addition to its grativying adventure. In doing so, Paul King together with Simon Farnaby neatly magnifies their characters with elements of innocence and intelligence, adding more organic profundity to them while also evoking tenderness and fulfillment collectively. These detailed characters, not only are they crucial to each one of them, but also to the entire narrative, as they offer genuine, unstrained touch to untangle plot knots and solidify its overarching concern of acceptance. Paddington 2 creates a world that feels old-fashioned yet sets an expressive singularity so distinct with high production value and attention to detail, emerging a magically enchanting tale with a fresh whisper of Wes Anderson's antics and a radiant spirit of Frank Chapra's gleams. A treat for the eyes as well as the heart of many, this high-spirited splendor is as sweet as a jar of marmalade and as genuine as Paddington himself, delivering a series of heartfelt and incredibly sparkling adventures for all ages to enjoy.

#16. Phantom Thread | Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Steered by the magnetic bond from its two leads, not only do Daniel Day Lewis and Vicky Krieps command the stage, they demand the spotlight in this Paul Thomas Anderson's mark for resurgence. In his leave-taking role, Daniel Day Lewis is once again in his finest frame, now as Reynolds, a powerful, perplexing dressmaker with iron-willed artistic eye that makes him a mazelike lunacy as he's a constant uniformity. From viewers' standpoint, there stands his muse-turned-lover Vicky Krieps' Alma, trying to decipher Reynolds and the austereness he lives in, only to find her place between moonstruck love and driven desperation. More of a two-persona show than an ensemble piece, this romance endures through agony, endearment, also changes; thus turning their sparks into a cyclic turmoil of existentialism invoked by amorous manipulation and toxic obsession. Paul Thomas Anderson’s approach is slow-footed but assured, creating an efficacious power built upon observing the dynamics of tug of war between two kinds of madness striving to win over each other. Anderson explores the beauty, the ugly, and the in-betweens of puzzling temptation through their radiating chemistry, and much like his other works, Phantom Thread doesn't seek forthright realism, but rather the fantasticated fabric of our own reality, propelling a far-out take on all-consuming passion with inescapable drift of belonging that exposes a venomous, arresting romantic force that’s both distant and irresistible.

#15. God's Own Country | Written and Directed by Francis Lee
God's Own Country's each second is commanded by nuanced silence, demonstrating a blooming love in fewer words and bursting affection through storming liaison of filmmaking. Francis Lee's direction empowers God's Own Country to walk a scrupulous pace, impassioned when it soars and enigmatic when it hushes. Set in a rural area and told from a solitary stance, the rush of adoring authenticity ensues from Lee's keen eye for attention to progressive intimacy with the help of unpoised camerawork as well as genuine acting, achieving an inviting yet demanding romance to look at. Lucid use of extreme close-up and less-methodical angle maximizes mezmerizing performances from Josh O'Connor along with Alec Secareanu, focusing on silent gestures and shades of affection to reveal a pinnacle of graphic storytelling. But, as far as it conveys intense, growing feelings between two human beings, it also shows more about empirical inner thriving, how one self could relieve self-restraint to completely own their loving awakening. Filled with vivid heat on top of subdued desolation, God's Own Country unwinds an eloquent mud-mantled chemistry in a still piece of pure cinema that lets its visual language speak for itself.

#14. Get Out | Written and Directed by Jordan Peele
Get Out begins with a bang, encapsuling the horror, deep down dread to an excruciating three-minute opening of intense discomfort which feels like going on forever yet keeps us getting involvedIt is at that point when you go, "I'm in!"and doesn't Jordan Peele deliver. But it's only the tip of an iceberg. As the truth eventually exposes itself, Get Out continues to frighten with never-ending panic, building upon its race issue cornerstone and allowing nerve-wrecking fear to get its way under your skinIt's a deliciously screeching terror-filled chamber urging viewers to chant "get out!", all while deludingly steering us to get in. But, from that right-through-you sudden sprint to the paralyzing angst of sunken place, Get Out makes us realize that the true horror lies in neither its ability to shock nor terrorize you: it is in the boundless truth. It's in the capacity to upset, the disturbing reality it possesses, and the significance it brings forward about modern day racism. Ultimately, Get Out is indeed eerily haunting. Whether you want to apply that definition to the urge it has for blood, sense of humor, its own way to grasp reality, or the unapologetically outspoken nature; there is no wrong answer. An occasionally funny, blunt satire without forgetting its horror complexion, Get Out manages to achive many in a single effort.

#13. The Killing of A Sacred Deer | Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos | Written by Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthmis Filippou
There's always a way to preface a film and invite audience in altogether, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer does this with inquisitiveness and sharp simplicity. With grandiose classical tune humming over a close-up of beating heart, it's a shot that's brilliantly sedating, enough to tell us that we're in for an intriguingly strange excursion. Loosely based on a Greek mythology, Yorgos Lanthimos translates its fabled premise into his own language of perplexing ethics, schismatic sacrifice, and back-breaking choices. Here, Lanthimos' wildest intuitiveness sets foot in a modern world that rings a bell to our own, posing impossible questions about unrestrained causality which seeks for the vulnerability in human's guilt. The dialogue is long and intentionally descriptive, sometimes even too detailed that these lines don't particularly have to be in parallel with the context of storytelling. The key, however, rests in Lanthimos' discreet direction and his cast's ice-cold firmness, forging an uncanniness that draws us in enticingly. In devilishly measured motion, the camera work keeps viewers off-balance yet aware of incoming viciousness, turning itself into its own 'living' character as it glides and always follows at an angle either too low or too high. A pure ingenuity of foreign darkness, The Killing of A Sacred Deer is a pitch-black folklore fathomed in provocative rhythm, intentionally stilted diction, harrowing tune, and outlandish charm. Really, there's no stranger thing than this.